After the most successful extended road trip in team history, the Utah Jazz got to come home and relax for the Christmas holidays.
It's not a scenario coach Jerry Sloan would have chosen."When you've got five days off after a tough stretch, you have a tendency to let down," Sloan said. "They don't seem to be at the same level as they were when we left."
Sloan said he let the players know at Tuesday's practice that he wasn't satisfied with their focus.
"I'm very concerned about it, obviously," he noted.
Compounding the problem is that the team coming to the Delta Center for Wednesday night's game is considerably better than any the Jazz faced on that six-game road excursion.
The Indiana Pacers are 16-8, in second place in the Central Division, trailing Cleveland. They have won nine of 12, and though they come to Utah on the tail-end of a back-to-back set (they beat Denver on Tuesday), they have swept four of their previous back-to-backs.
"Their players all seem to know their roles and they play as a team," Sloan said, making the Pacers sound a lot like the Jazz. "Larry Brown does a good job getting them prepared."
The Pacer who seems to have Sloan most concerned is center Rik Smits.
"The big guy inside is really tough to deal with," the coach said. "He can score inside and shoot outside. He's caused us some problems in the past."
The Jazz hope to get a boost from the return of David Benoit, who missed the last game (and all but five minutes of the one before that) with a sprained ankle. Benoit practiced Tuesday, and if his ankle holds up, he'll be back in the lineup Wednesday.
Jazz guard Jay Humphries also had good practices the last two days and could be ready to play after sitting out the past two games.